Winter time, not just sick time, tends to be my television watching time. Not having tuned in for awhile, I was shocked at some of the changes that have taken place in Telly World.
For starters, since when is every other show on the tube a knockoff of either “Law and Order” or “CSI”? I mean, c’mon, I know a successful show tends to spawn imitators, but out-and-out clones–that’s just wrong. I’d demand Sam Waterson investigate, but I’m afraid he’d have to recuse himself from the case. 🙂
So, you ask, what oasises have I discovered in the vast wasteland that is network television these days?
Chuck: I admit that I was so put off by the goofy idea behind this show–computer geek winds up with national security database in his head, plays spy, hilarity ensues–that I completely refused to watch the first season. After actually sitting through an episode, however, I was hooked. Think “Get Smart” but with heart, wit, action, and pop culture references.
Bones: Another crime show? About a bunch of forensic scientists and the FBI agent who has to work with them? Get outta here. But no, this is a show that really works. The mysteries are generally solid, but the real key to the show’s success are the relationships between the characters and the chemistry between the cast members. You can really believe that these folks are highly intelligent, quirky types who work together at the same lab.
NCIS: The acronym stands for “Navy Crime Scene Investigation” and the storyline revolves around the taciturn agent Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and his motley crew of miscreants who solve crimes involving Navy/Marine personnel. A limited focus, well-defined characters, and excellent chemistry among the cast make this show stand out from the other “CSI” clones. My favorite character: Abby, the goth forensic scientist.
Desperate Housewives: Successful conversion to digital TV means that I can finally watch the ABC shows on Channel 2, traditionally the weak sister channel in town. I have to say that this show lives up to its hype. My favorite characters: the uptight Bree and the self-centered Gabby.
Crusoe: Another show with a lame premise that turned out to be surprisingly good. Like the title suggests, the story revolves around Robinson Crusoe and alternates between his struggle to survive on the island with his loyal companion, Friday, and flashbacks to his life in England and the conspiracy that eventually lead to him being stranded on the island. The core of the story is really about the bond of friendship between him and Friday who is an interesting person in his own right. Unfortunately, rumor has it that the series has been cancelled after its initial thirteen episode run. A darned shame.
Two and a Half Men: The ongoing saga of the dysfunctional Harper brothers is probably the best half-hour comedy show currently on TV. Briefly, Charlie (Charlie Sheen) is a womanizing drunkard who’s carefree bachelor existence is disrupted when his divorced, tightly wound brother Alan (Jon Cryer) and nephew Jake move in with him. This hackneyed “Odd Couple” premise is elevated by the writing which regularly walks the line between comedy and pathos with aplomb.
The Jury’s Still Out
The Mentalist: A show with an intriguing lead character that is repeatedly lamed by bad writing. Just when I am ready to give up on it, however, the show redeems itself by saying something thoughtful and intelligent. So, just what are they toking up in the writers’ room? I don’t know, but I do know that Simon Baker’s charisma can’t carry this series forever. The mysteries need to be better plotted, the other characters more well-rounded, and Patrick Jane’s opposite number, Teresa Lisbon, needs to butt heads–and win–with him more often.
Dollhouse: As a Joss Whedon fan, I eagerly awaited this new series from the master, but was disappointed by its debut. Eliza Dushku is an excellent actress, but while the initial episode was solid, I couldn’t bring myself to care about the characters. I plan on watching the next episode to give it a fair chance, but the series really needs to kick it up a notch if they want to hook me as a regular.
Ghost Whisperer: I’m a sucker for dead people with issues to resolve which is why I find this show compelling, but seriously what is going on with this whole Dan’s spirit-is-in-another-body storyline? Either get Dan out of there or let him move on to the next world already. And will someone please feed Jennifer Love Hewitt? The girl’s a stick.
Get the Hook
Flashpoint: Okay, I’ve sat through a couple of episodes now and frankly I fail to see how sending a heavily armed, paramilitary hit squad into a tense situation can do anything but lead to tragedy. If a SWAT team like this burst into my house without warning, the lead (or at least the silverware) would definitely fly.
CSI: Miami: Points to David Caruso (Lt. Horatio Gates) for giving his old-man-in-charge character some depth and watchability with no help from the scriptwriters. Otherwise, this is a very forgettable show about crimes committed in tropical areas and investigated by beautiful people (male and female) who are completely unbelieveable as forensic scientists and uninteresting to boot.
CSI: New York: The real mystery here is why fine actors like Gary Sinise and Melina Kanakarides are being wasted in a so-so crime drama. There’s some attempt to individuate the characters in the cast, but the attempt falls short. Bottom line: if I don’t care about the continuing characters, I’m not going to tune back in.
Medium: I’ve given this show a chance and really, “Ghost Whisperer”, is better.
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